Bertram Brooker

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Bertram Brooker
Brooker painting.jpg
Brooker painting in his studio, 1943
Born Bertram Richard Brooker
31 March 1888
Croydon, England,
Died March 22, 1955(1955-03-22) (aged 66)
Nationality English-Canadian
Known for Writing, Painting, Music
Movement Abstract impressionism
Awards Governor General's 1936 Award for Fiction

Bertram Richard Brooker (March 31, 1888 – March 22, 1955) was a Canadian writer, painter, musician, and advertising agency executive. Brooker was an early Canadian abstract impressionist.[1]

Early life[edit]

Brooker was born in Croydon, England, to Richard Brooker and Mary Ann (Skinner) Brooker. He moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in 1905 with his family.[2]


As a young man, Brooker worked on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.[2] In 1913 he rented a movie theatre in Neepawa, Manitoba. That same year he married Mary Aurilla (“Rill”) Porter. In 1914 he became editor of the Portage Review, a local newspaper. In 1915 he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Engineers in Winnipeg. After the war he worked for The Winnipeg Tribune, The Regina Leader-Post and The Winnipeg Free Press.

He moved to Toronto, Ontario in 1921 and joined the staff of Marketing magazine. Brooker served as the magazine's editor and publisher from 1924 until 1926. In 1923, he published his first book, Subconscious Selling.

Brooker began painting in an abstract style, and in 1927 held his first exhibition, organized by his friend Lawren Harris.[3] That year his work was on display at the Canadian National Exhibition.[4] He was one of the first Canadians to paint in this style, although Kathleen Munn exhibited abstract paintings before Brooker exhibited his.[5] He was influenced in his development as an artist by LeMoine Fitzgerald[citation needed].

In 1929 he joined the staff of the J.J. Gibbons Advertising Agency.

In 1931 Brooker was embroiled in a controversy about nudity in art when a painting of his was removed from a gallery exhibition because it contained nudity.[6] Brooker later wrote the essay "Nudes and Prudes" in 1931 as a rebuke.[7]

In 1936, Brooker's novel Think of the Earth (1936) became the first work to win the Governor General's Award for Fiction,[3] although very few copies were sold.[8] In 1940 he joined the staff of the MacLaren Advertising Co.

In 1972, a retrospective exhibition of Brooker's paintings was on display in a number of Canadian cities, including at the National Gallery in Ottawa.[9]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Subconscious Selling (1923)
  • Layout Technique in Advertising (1929), writing as Richard W. Surrey
  • Copy Technique in Advertising (1930), writing as Richard W. Surrey
  • Elijah (1930), drawings
  • Think of the Earth (1936)
  • The Tangled Miracle (1936), writing as Huxley Hearne[10]
  • The Robber (1949)
  • Sounds Assembling: The Poetry of Bertram Brooker (1980)


  1. ^ Joan Murray. Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century. Dundurn; November 1999. ISBN 978-1-55002-332-9. p. 250–.
  2. ^ a b J. Russell Harper. Painting in Canada: A History. University of Toronto Press; 1977. ISBN 978-0-8020-6307-6. p. 323–.
  3. ^ a b Lawren Harris. In the Ward: His Urban Poetry and Paintings. Exile Editions, Ltd.; 2007. ISBN 978-1-55096-063-1. p. 85–.
  4. ^ Ms Julia Skelly. The Uses of Excess in Visual and Material Culture, 1600–2010. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.; 28 August 2014. ISBN 978-1-4094-4237-0. p. 205–.
  5. ^ Roald Nasgaard,Abstract Painting in Canada, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver and Art Gallery of Novia Scoria, Halifax, 2007, pp. 19-21
  6. ^ Biography of Bertram Brooker, retrieved on May 25th 2007.
  7. ^ Nudes and Prudes by Bertram Brooker, retrieved on May 25th 2007.
  8. ^ "Taking stock: The Governor General’s Literary Awards at 80". Toronto Star, Mike Doherty, Oct. 27, 2016
  9. ^ Artscanada. Vol. 30. Society for Art Publications.; 1973. p. 65–68.
  10. ^ Clara Thomas, Canadian Novelists 1920-1945, Longmans, Green and Comoany, Toronto, 1946 p. 16


  • Reid, Dennis. Bertram Brooker, 1888-1955 Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1973.

External links[edit]